BalletX Spring Season at the Wilma

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

BalletX is presenting its Spring Series 2019 at The Wilma Theater in Philadelphia now through March 17. The three works on the program are: Off the Canvas, a world premiere by choreographer Katarzyna Skarpetowska; Express, an East Coast premiere by Lil Buck; and Steep Drop, Euphoric, a world premiere by Nicolo Fonte.


Artistic and Executive Director Christine Cox addressed the opening night audience before the performance with good news. BalletX has over 1,200 subscribers, and 600 donors. This March season at the Wilma is 85% sold out, which is phenomenal news for any arts organization. Of course, Ms. Cox joked there is always a place for a new donor and now everyone needs to tell only a few people how great the program is. Christine Cox was telling the truth. This program is an exhilarating, exuberant affirmation of life.


The program began with Ms. Sharpetowska’s Off the Canvas, with recorded music by Antonio Vivaldi and Adrian Klumpes. The choreographer added this to the program notes, “Off the Canvas is inspired by the ecstatic and mystery [sic] evoking vermillion loops of Cy Twombley’s Bacchus series paintings.” Indeed, the dancers wore leotards in white with red devices dyed into the fabric to represent the artist’s paintings. Costume Designer Fritz Masten did a wonderful job. The choreography for ten dancers, five men and five women, was infused with this ecstatic and mystery-invoking ethos in what was a hypnotic exercise in motion. The music by Klumpes was of a background filled with odd and amplified sounds played at loud pitch. It was reminiscent of a Foley operator’s dream. The Vivaldi was played at an equally loud level so that it, too, sounded mechanical, undoubtedly for the intended effect. The piece was well danced and received a standing ovation from the audience.


Next was Lil Buck’s Express, a work originally commissioned and performed at the 2018 Vail Dance Festival. Entirely different form the previous work, Express is a work for ten dancers using established dance vocabulary informed by contemporary popping and locking dance moves set to contemporary jazz music with the notable contribution, among others, of Jon Batiste. Batiste is the music director of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Express is a lively, coherent work with choreography clearly set to individual pieces of music allowing many of the men to shine among a fine male contingent. Outstanding contributors were Stanley Glover, Roderick Phifer, and Richard Villaverde. Once again, the dancers were gifted with a warm and prolonged standing ovation from this opening night audience.


Closing the evening was Nicolo Fonte’s mysterious world premiere Steep Drop, Euphoric, with music by Ezio Bosso and Olafur Amalds. A startlingly entwined ensemble begins the work clad in tights with shredded, gossamer films draped from their shoulders, as if their immortality has been attacked in battle. The dancers move as if in ritual or ancient worship on and around what appears to be a waterfall indicated by a length of rubber mat. This waterfall is often guarded by a virgin female goddess whom the dancers appear to worship — at first. Later, this goddess is molested by naiads of several sexes, resulting in her wrapping herself into a cocoon of water (the rubber matting) until forest sprites appear and one lesbian sprite awakens the goddess and she blooms like a peony excited by the footfalls of ants.  Steep Drop, Euphoric is a beautiful work which must be seen. According to Christine Cox, she insisted it close the program. Her intuition was spot on. Among the many fine dancers, were Mr. Villaverde, again tremendous, and Zachary Kapeluck intrigued us with his focused, effortless grace which called to mind David Hatch Walker.


It is strongly suggested that you buy your tickets to see BalletX at the Wilma.


BalletX is presenting its Spring Series 2019 at The Wilma Theater in Philadelphia until March 17. For information and tickets to this season and the forthcoming summer season at the Wilma July 10-21, visit or phone the Wilma box office at 215-546-7824.

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